Rest? Stop!

rest-area-we-approve-1225977-1280x960.jpg“This life is full of trials, full of troubles, and full of changes. Sin within, and Satan and the world without, will keep a Christian from rest, till he comes to rest in the bosom of Christ. The life of a Christian is a race and what rest have they that are still a-running their race? The life of a Christian is a warfare; and what rest have they that are still engaged in a constant warfare? The life of a Christian is the life of a pilgrim; and what rest has
a pilgrim who is still a-travelling from place to place? A pilgrim is like Noah’s dove, that could find no rest for the sole of her foot. The feast, the snare, the cares, the changes, etc., that attends believers in this world, are such that keep them from taking up their rest here. A Christian hears that word always sounding in his ears, ‘Arise, for this is not they resting-place,’ Micah 2:10. A man may as well expect to find heaven in hell, as to expect to find rest in this world.” —Thomas Brooks, A String of Pearls

rest-area-we-approve-1225977-1280x960.jpg

Smelling Roses in a Mine Field (Psalm 26)

Vindicate me, O LORD,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the LORD without wavering.

O LORD, I love the habitation of your house
and the place where your glory dwells. —Psalm 26:1, 8

Modern worship choruses have picked up on “How lovely is your dwelling place,” but I don’t hear anyone singing “Vindicate me for I have walked in my integrity.” Our beef with this psalm is our beef with the psalter, and it goes all the way back to the beginning.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish. —Psalm 1

The first thing to settle as you come to the psalms is that there are righteous men as well as wicked men. True, all righteous men once were wicked men. Those who are now trees were once chaff and the change has happened by the monergistic, merciful, and mighty act of regeneration. The saints are not self-righteous, nor are they yet perfect, but they are righteous. They not only have the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, but are being continually conformed to Christ’s righteousness. There is light, and there is darkness.

This division, and the resulting war, goes all the way back to the promise of the gospel concerning the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent and the enmity between them; which was soon vividly manifest in wicked Cain murdering righteous Abel (Matthew 23:35). We open the Psalms expecting them to smell like a floral shop. Instead, they smell like a battlefield. The line has been drawn in the sand and you are either on one side or the other.

Too many professing Christians are trying to play Switzerland. We’re scared to offend God, but we still desire to trade with the world. There can be no neutrality. Do you want righteousness to win and wickedness to fail? If so, then here you may learn how to pray. If not, you’re smelling roses in the middle of a mine field and will soon find that your naiveté doesn’t neutralize the threat.

A Drink from Brooks: Painting Sin with Virtues Colors

“First, consider, That sin is never a, whit the less filthy, vile, and abominable, by its being coloured and painted with virtues colours. A poisonous pill is never a whit the less poisonous because it is gilded over with gold; nor a wolf is never a whit the less a wolf because he hath put on a sheep’s skin; nor the devil is never a whit the less a devil because he appears sometimes like an angel of light. So neither is sin any whit the less filthy and abominable by its being painted over with virtue’s colours.” —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices

A Drink from Brooks: Sin Is but a Bitter Sweet

The second remedy to consider, That sin is but a bitter sweet. That seeming sweet that is in sin will quickly vanish, and lasting shame, sorrow, horror, and terror will come in the room thereof: Job 20:12-14, ‘Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue, though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth, yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.’ Forbidden profits and pleasures are most pleasing to vain men, who count madness mirth, &c. Many long to be meddling with the murdering morsels of sin, which nourish not, but rent and consume the belly, the soul, that receives them. Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell. Sin’s murdering morsels will deceive those that devour them. Adam’s apple was a bitter sweet; Esau’s mess was a bitter sweet; the Israelite’s quails a bitter sweet; Jonathan’s honey a bitter sweet; and Adonijah’s dainties a bitter sweet. After the meal is ended, then comes the reckoning. Men must not think to dance and dine with the devil, and then to sup with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; to feed upon the poison of asps, and yet that the vipers tongue should not slay them. —Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices

Watching Sitcoms in the Midst of a Battle (1 Peter 4:1–6)

8313_Worship

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin…” —1 Peter 4:1 (ESV)

“Arm yourselves!” The word has as clear a military connotation in the original language as the English translation suggests. The noun form of the word translated “arm” is often rendered “weapons.” This is a call to weaponize.

With what are we to arm ourselves? “The same way of thinking.” It would be progress for much of the evangelical church to arm herself with any kind of thinking. Mark Noll has lamented, “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” As you sit in the average American church, is the mood predominantly one of amusement or muse-ment? Here’s a test, if you lose electricity, does the worship gathering fall flat? Often a lot of thought goes into such gatherings, but are they thinking about thinking? If their thinking has any links to the academy, it is likely to the one in Hollywood.

We mustn’t pit the mind against the heart, but when the heart is mindlessly moved we have a word for this—manipulation. Collectively, the Christian masses aren’t so much moved by the Spirit as they are manipulated by men. What we want is for the heart to be moved by the mind. If this isn’t so, then our hearts are affected by our own imaginations rather than God’s revelation and we’re found to be worshipping an idol. Ours should be the ambition of Jonathan Edwards, “I should think myself in the way of my duty to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with.”

If we are far from arming ourselves with thinking, how much more so from arming ourselves with a kind of militant thinking that is ready to suffer? We are at leisure in the living room of the world rather than at the ready in God’s armory. If the Christian mind isn’t fighting, it’s surrendered. If our minds are not sober, they’re drunk (1 Peter 1:13–14).

A Spiritual War with Human Meat Shields (Psalm 17)

There is an emphasis by some on spiritual warfare today, but most of it should be tossed into the looney bin. Many would have us flailing our spiritual fists wildly in the air praying against territorial demons and rebuking the evil spirits in hurricanes.

There is another contingency that thinks we’ll win by niceness. Love can be a potent weapon in war, but niceness is a limp-wristed way of handling a Scottish claymore that’ll result in hurting more friendlies than enemies. Love will make a man throw his body over razor wire so his platoon can escape enemy fire. Niceness will politely hold the wires apart for your allies while signaling the enemy, “We’re over here. Please come to our side.”

Then there are the Westboro militants. You get the impression that the only thing that keeps them from using Satan’s more gruesome weapons is the law of land. They say they’re building God’s kingdom, but they’re using the devil’s tools.

We are in a spiritual war that uses human meat shields. The meat shield shouldn’t keep one from using the imprecatory psalms. They enlisted for their own agenda. The psalms are not a dead language meant primarily for reflective reading and not for active singing.

How aware are we of this war? I think the pathetic nature of our strategies and tactics display that we don’t get it. While some are off playing Dungeons and Dragons in a virtual world, others think we’re in a Nerf gun fight with friends. There are real evils in this world, human and demonic. We must take refuge in God and we must call in heavenly artillery.

Jesus is a King and He is an opposed King. If you think Uncle Sam can draw a line down the middle of the back seat so that we kids play nice and get along, you’re as naive as a five year old. The agenda of the enemy isn’t to maintain space, but to advance space. Jesus said we’re sent out as sheep among wolves. We have all the tactical brilliance of thinking we are sheep among cows. Sure, they’re big and they may hurt us, but we can coexist, grazing peacefully in the same pastures.

Our fundamental confession is “Jesus is Lord.” All the pastures are His. That’s His grass. Repent and bow the knee to Christ as Lord. Persist in your hatred of Him and His bride, and know there is a judgment. 

Let us love our enemies, but let us also sing and lament all rebellion against our King, certain of His glorious judgment to bring us into the fullness of salvation and peace.

Silly Spirituality (Colossians 2:18–23)

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

…These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” —Colossians 2:18–19, 23

False teachings, like the teachers themselves, travel as a pack of dogs. Where you find one, the others are likely present. Do you sense an unbiblical esteem for the spiritual and disdain for the physical that leans toward asceticism? If so, you’ll likely find an unhealthy fascination with angels and demons. Is spiritual warfare concerning said angels and demons made much of in an extra-biblical way? Then there will likely be talk of visions to justify such nonsense.

The irony of this false teaching is that their qualifications disqualify. Their severity to the body strengthens the flesh. Their show of humility is fuels pride. Worshipping angels, they’re enslaved to demons. Seeking higher spiritual knowledge, their minds are fleshly and of this world. By starving the body they’ve only fed the flesh.

Paul is ridiculing these false teachers in the light of the gory of Christ. They are a joke, but not one to be taken flippantly or casually. Laugh at heresy with the utmost seriousness. Let no one disqualify you insisting on something so stupid and silly. See Jesus Christ the Lord, supreme as Sovereign, Savior, and Sanctifier.